Throughout the ongoing review process for the Talent x Opportunity Initiative’s third cohort, we continue to be impressed with the many talented but under-networked founders who are developing new products, tools, and marketplaces.
It is not an easy task to select ten promising startups from the hundreds we evaluated over the last few months. This group of founders embodies the cultural genius that TxO is all about advancing: from Venezuelan sisters who created a food brand to satiate their homesickness to former college athletes making it easier for athletes to get mental health assistance. These founders have all tapped a unique cultural insight as the spark to build new products and platforms. And now, it’s time to accelerate!
Meet the latest founders to join our TxO community as the Fall 2022 cohort!
Interested in joining? We will have two TxO cohorts next year starting in January. If you or someone you know would be a great candidate for the TxO program, we encourage you to apply here.
Asha Christian was born and raised in Atlanta and picked up coding at an early age. She learned basic drag/drop code logic in middle school and would go on to teach herself how to develop apps. She also taught herself how to braid hair and braided hair throughout high school as a side gig. Asha always felt there was a lack of infrastructure in the Black haircare space. She decided to build a Coily, a community-driven marketplace that utilizes AI to personalize and enhance the Black hair shopping experience.
Ashton Keys was born and raised in Detroit. He has always had a deep love for sports which led him to Michigan State University. While there, Ashton had a unique opportunity to work with student-athletes on being public figures by managing their digital presence and build brand awareness. After the Name, Image, Likeness policy passed, Ashton kept the inner-city athletes he grew up with in mind and decided to build Athlytic, a fully-integrated marketplace that connects student athletes with potential monetization opportunities.
Brittani Hunter was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. After college, she launched an ecommerce business and quickly discovered that most of the business resources and content were not relatable to young, Black entrepreneurs. She began writing and sharing more relatable content on LinkedIn and attracted thousands of Black professionals and new founders and was recognized by LinkedIn as a Top Voice in Management and Culture. Based on the feedback, she decided to launch The Mogul Millennial with a vision to create an all-in-one platform where smart, actionable content and resources would be available for the Black community.
Ezinne Iroanya-Adeoye grew up in Nigeria and moved to the United States at the age of 16 to attend college. She worked her way through college by working within the beauty industry. Through various experiences, she realized the beauty industry under-appreciated Black women despite their high spending power. This motivated her to launch SKNMUSE with the vision of becoming a luxury goods conglomerate and offering an elevated self-care ritual for the modern Black woman through bodycare.
Ivan Tchatchouwo, Erik Poldroo, and Janaya Reid grew up participating in various sports and finding solace in it. Specifically for Ivan, who is originally from Cameroon, sports was a way to find community and learn English. He was talented enough to play college basketball and be named captain his junior year but he faced a season-ending injury that put him in a state of depression. Fortunately he seeked professional help for his depression and realized a majority of athletes don’t, which sparked the idea for The Zone. The team is providing a more efficient and effective mental wellness support for student-athletes and their universities.
Kimberly Jolasun and Sam Beal founded Villie as a place for expecting parents to conveniently get the support they want and need from loved ones. Kimberly was born and raised in the South Bronx to immigrant, Ghanaian parents and to get the family support in raising her and her siblings, she was sent back and forth to Ghana throughout her childhood. During her first pregnancy, Kim came up with the idea for Villie and connected with Sam, a software developer, who has a passion for family and technology.
Maria Fernanda Römer-Cabezas and Maria Corina Vieteis are sisters born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela and immigrated to the U.S. due to the political and social turmoil. The sisters found themselves constantly looking for flavors that reminded them of home but their busy lifestyles prevented them from cooking the delicious recipes they grew up enjoying. They noticed they were not the only ones too busy to enjoy familiar recipes; they seized the opportunity to create a recipe that tastes just like their mom’s, by using a few simple ingredients that are good for you and creating Toast-It, the first ready-to-toast arepa.
Myles Powell was born into a family of foodies and entrepreneurs in Pennsylvania. He found that most of his favorite family memories were spent gathered around for daily meals that starred comfort foods like collard greens, fried chicken, and mac and cheese. His love for food and cooking earned him an appearance on Food Network’s America’s Best Cook and eventually he decided to pursue his passion full-time by launching 8Myles, a better-for-you comfort foods brand with clean ingredients and flavor.
Niki Shamdasani and Ritika Shamdasani are the first generation South Asian Americans building Sani, a culturally inspired apparel brand. South Asian culture influences pop culture in every major way, but when it comes to fashion, these elements are often appropriated. Niki and Ritika created Sani to invite the world into South Asian culture in a way that fosters appreciation. It started as a formal wear brand to address the difficulty of shopping for Indian weddings from the US and has since expanded to include casual apparel as well.
Renè Graham was born and raised in Texas to a Taiwanese immigrant and a farmer-turned-insurance salesman. She is an architect by training. While on a train ride to work, she was using her cluttered makeup bag to get ready and the train jolted, leaving her makeup products in pieces in the train car. She thought to herself “there must a better way” and using her creative skills sketched out the design for Renzoe Box, sophisticated portable case for your entire daily makeup routine which makes for an elegant solution to the messy makeup bag.